This Is What Mary Berry Does Instead Of Checking Expiration Dates

Beloved former-judge on The Great British Bake Off, Mary Berry is, to many, the queen of British baking. But one thing that she lets slide in the kitchen that might surprise you? Checking expiration dates. According to the Yorkshire Post, Berry ignores the best-buy dates on many food items and, instead, dives in nose-first. The news article says that when Berry is checking to see if a food item is still good to go, she relies on a trick she learned from her mother during a time when household freezers were not the norm. "I don't do sell-by dates but I have to confess if there is a pot of cream I just lift the lid and smell it. If it's all right, I have it," she notes. "You do have to be careful if it is meat and keep within the dates."

While, to some best-by sticklers, this revelation could be seen as a major lack of good judgment, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) backs Mary Berry up in its food safety eduction sheet on food product dating. According to the USDA, food product dating isn't required by law except on infant formula and the dates aren't an indicator of safety, saying, "Manufacturers provide dating to help consumers and retailers decide when food is of best quality. Except for infant formula, dates are not an indicator of the product's safety and are not required by Federal law."

So should you adopt Mary Berry's smell check method?

You'd be well within reason to give Mary Berry's smell method a try. The USDA says that there are four dates you'll most commonly see on food products. A "best if used by/before" date refers to the best timeframe for product quality or flavor; a "sell by" date refers to how long a store should simply display the item; a "use by" date is the last date for peak product quality; and a "freeze by" date indicates when a product should be frozen to retain peak quality. But none of these phrases refer to food safety, except for, again, when dealing with infant formula.

When it comes to the smell check method, in an Irish News article, one doctor tells consumers to simply trust their noses, taste buds, and common sense — and realize all the while that sometimes even those smelly foods can be safe to eat, technically. The important thing? Always cook your foods until hot enough to kill any illness-causing bacteria.